6 Quick Ways to Reduce Return RatesMarch 27, 2018 - Ben Froedge
Product returns are one of the biggest headaches you’ll face as an online retailer. Reducing your overall number of returns is essential for every online retailer. Not only will it help your revenue numbers, it’ll also make it easier and less time-consuming to run your business. But, how exactly do you reduce returns?
Without a brick-and-mortar presence, returns add an extra layer of difficulty involved when buyers have to ship something back to you. An overly restrictive return policy isn’t a good solution, as it hurts your relationship with otherwise great customers and can result in bad reviews.
Just like all problems in life, the best way to deal with it is to find out what’s causing the problem and cut it off at the source. First, we’ll look at some of the most common causes of returns, and then discuss how you can prevent them.
Why customers return
1. Customer ordered the wrong size
Maybe your large is another brands medium. Or perhaps the buyer couldn’t figure out how that size monitor would look on their desk and now they’re having regrets. Something is going on because wrong sizing is one of the most cited reasons for online returns.
2. The product doesn’t match the description
When you buy something in-store, you can pick it up, feel it, see it, smell it (if you’re into that). Online buying doesn’t offer that same experience. No one wants to receive an online purchase and discover that their purchase fails to match up to their expectations.
3. Gift purchases gone wrong
Birthdays, holidays, or even just nice people who love giving gifts to others. They make a lot of purchases. Sometimes, though, they also result in returns. When buyers make a purchase for someone else, a whole new layer of difficulty comes into play for buying the right thing.
4. Intentionally ordering multiple items with the intention of returning some
This one is especially a problem for retail. The customer wants to be able to try on and see what works. The root cause is that online buyer’s unreliable information about sizing and appearance. No one wants to get a purchase and realize it doesn’t fit or isn’t the right color and then be stuck without options.
How to reduce returns
You’ll never completely eliminate returns. It’s all part and parcel of running a business, whether it’s online or brick-and-mortar. But that doesn’t mean you can’t put a big dent in the number of returns you have to process.
1. Show them the goods
Product images are one of the most important elements of selling a physical product online. Low-quality images will not only limit the number of sales you make, they’ll also land you more returns. You want buyers to really understand what they’re getting before it gets to their door.
Images should be: High-resolution, well-lit, zoomable, clean and distraction free.
But you can go farther with images. Show your stuff off in ways that let it come alive.
- Clothing should be worn by actual people whenever possible. If you want to win shoppers over, show your apparel on different sized models so shoppers of all shapes and sizes know what they are getting into.
- Furniture, electronics, appliances and anything else that becomes a fixture of a space should be shown in that space. Show shoppers relative sizes. Measurements and plain product photos are great, but showing off your stuff in its natural environment allows for better decision making.
- Take a step back and think about your product page like a buyer. Are there things you want to see? Do you want a better idea of size, fit, or scale? Answer those questions with pictures.
2. Let buyers sing your praises
Your buyers know what they care about more than you do. They know what problems they have, what they love, what they hate. Leverage and display reviews from those buyers. Reviews carry a lot of weight.
Amazon has even started working in reviews specifically focused on fit into their listings
Most returns happen when shoppers don’t get the information they need in a digestible format, or when they lack trust in that information. By featuring reviews prominently and asking them to include information about things like fit, you can help buyers make better decisions.
3. Help them make better decisions
Give buyers accurate information in a way that’s useful to them and that answers any questions they might have. A lot of stores are missing at least one of those elements when it comes to product info. Maybe you present information well, but it’s not complete enough.
Maybe you’ve got enough sizing information, but your sizing chart looks like a calculator exploded on a spreadsheet. You can fix this with a little work, and you’ll be much better off for it. Here’s what you should do…
A) Find out what they need to know
Collect the data you’ve got available.
- Reasons given for returns
- Questions and problems from customer service interactions
- Anything that gets mentioned in reviews
- Questions/comments/issues that come up in social media or anywhere else your stuff gets talked about
B) Upgrade your product information
All this tells you what your buyers consider important and why you’re getting returns. The next step is to create the assets give them the information they need.
- Fit is one of the hardest things to get right, and one of the most important as well. Give shoppers a better way to judge size than numbers on a spreadsheet.
- Write better product descriptions. The more relevant and well-formatted information you can give your customers, the better.
- If your products need assembly or specific care, create a guide and include a link on your product page. This kind of transparency will make them feel better about buying and reduce the chance they’ll get frustrated. Frustration leads to bad reviews and returns.
4. Tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth
Don’t overhype things you sell. Be truthful about what people are paying for and what they’re worth. This is really more of an obvious problem in the dropshipping, get-rich-quick world. Serious eCommerce stores don’t scam their customers.
We know the majority of online sellers are above such tricks and dishonesty to sell products, but sometimes we get excited about the things we sell. It’s better to check ourselves and make sure we can deliver on the promises of our marketing.
- Use accurate product information and material listings
- Use pictures of the actual product, not just something that looks similar.
- Price for what your products are worth. Making more per sale is nice, but if it just gets returned, it did you no good.
- Don’t make promises that you can’t keep.
5. Help give better gifts
You can’t control what people give as gifts. But if someone has good enough taste to buy from you may be able to help them make good gifting choices.
- Gift cards are always a good option. Pushing gift cards, especially around holidays, makes the post-holiday season easier and less return-y for you.
- Offer a wishlist functionality. Let shoppers create public or private lists that others can search and buy from. This can also encourage account creation, which grows your email list.
- Offer gift bundles. This will give an easy, less-likely-to-be-returned gift option, and can bump up your average order value as well.
6. Create and publish a solid return policy
Write and create a return and exchange policy that inspires confidence in your customers, but discourages excessive returns. Getting into the details of what makes a good return policy would be another 2,000 words. Instead, here’s a fantastic guide letting you know how to create a returns policy that can actually increase sales.
Reduce returns with picture perfect product photos.